Community Classroom tutoring benefiting local residents; next tutor training planned Sept. 8

PLAINVIEW – “Bob” has known he needed to go back to school and earn his GED for several years, but it wasn’t until he saw a television commercial for his dream career that he finally made the move toward one.

Now nearly 40, Bob, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, had always been interested in law enforcement. But not having his high school diploma stood in the way of that happening. A commercial for the state highway patrol motivated him enough to seek the GED.

When Bob heard about the GED tutoring offered through the Community Classroom at Wayland Baptist University, he was encouraged to begin the process. After meeting director Debbie Stennett and learning about the program, he signed up and was assigned Mike Melcher as his tutor.

Melcher, who is director of corporate development at Wayland, said the relationship has been mutually beneficial since their one-on-one tutoring started in early spring. The pair meets for an hour each week and work on whatever areas Bob needs help with in order to prepare him for the GED test. He’s excited at what the future holds.

“I dropped out in the ninth grade to work and help my dad out with bills, and I’ve just worked ever since then,” Bob said. “I always knew I needed and wanted to do the GED. I’ve had the same job for 20 years and I would like to move into a new field.”

Bob said he feels good to be working toward the diploma, though the process has been challenging. Vocabulary and math are daunting to him, but he said Melcher’s encouragement has been invaluable.

“Having someone show me step by step and help me with problems, I feel like I can conquer anything,” he said. “He has been so good to me, telling me that he’s here to help me and not to put me down. I’m trying hard, and he keeps encouraging me to go on.”

Bob’s family has been supportive of his efforts and encouraged him as well. The GED tutoring has helped Bob in another area as well: he’s grown to like reading more now that he’s more comfortable with words and reads more now than in the past.

According to Stennett, the tutoring program has been a success in just its short lifespan, with several students and committed volunteers working toward the GED test goal. But more students are out there and are in need of volunteers.

To that end, Stennett has scheduled another volunteer training session on Saturday, Sept. 8 from 9 a.m. to noon for those interested in tutoring students toward GED testing. Tutors are also needed for the Community Classroom’s citizenship tutoring program, and training for that will be held simultaneously on Sept. 8.

“The beauty of our program is that the pace is student-driven,” Stennett said. “We just work on one subject at a time, and we’re very flexible in trying to meet the scheduling needs of our students.”

Stennett said while only a dozen students took advantage of the project in the early months, she is encouraged that they have all stayed with the program and have had good results already.

“We have already had one woman get her citizenship that came through for tutoring, and we’re working up to a few taking the GED,” she said. “If we have several more citizenship students, we can even form a small class if we need to do so.

“The main thing is that no one should have to wait for a tutor. If these students come in and are finding time in their busy work schedules to do this, I don’t want them to have to wait.”

Stennett, who tutors three students herself, said she’s enjoyed watching the adult students learn and expand their horizons, and she feels the other tutors are benefiting as well from helping someone in the community better themselves.

“It’s fun to watch the progress for people, though it is slow and incremental,” she said. “The thing that makes this work is the tutor-student relationship. We spend lots of time on relationship building and mutual trust and respect, and that’s what makes it work.”

The tutor training will be held at the Community Classroom, 708 Yonkers, and is free of charge. It will include breakfast and will cover the instruction materials and procedures for tutoring in either citizenship or GED/Pre-GED. Prospective tutors must be at least 18 and be able to commit to weekly sessions, and provide a patient and encouraging atmosphere.

Other activities planned soon at the Community Classroom include the regular meeting of the Literary Lunch Bunch from noon – 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Books to be discussed in the quarterly meeting include Andrew Carnegie, The Road, The Secret, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? and Mockingbird. The Lunch Bunch is free and guests are welcome to bring their lunch to the meeting.

The Classroom also hosts monthly sessions of the Comedy Defensive Driving course, with two evening sessions from 6:15-9:15 p.m. required to fulfill the certificate of completion. The next sessions are scheduled for Sept. 17 and 18 and the course costs $30 per person. The class is helpful in reducing insurance rates or removing traffic tickets.

Another coming feature is a quilting course in handpiecing, taught on Monday evenings from Sept. 10 to Nov. 5 from 6-8 p.m. Taught by Lee Baird, the class will teach the basics of traditional handpiecing to make quilts, table runners, pillows and blankets. Students will learn five techniques basic to most all quilt block patterns. And will design a quilt block pattern unique to their personalities. The blocks will be backed in fleece and completed by the end of the course.

Cost for the quilting course is $75 per person and students will purchase their materials after the initial session, with costs estimated at an additional $35. Class size is limited for this popular return feature.

To register for any of the Community Classroom programs or to sign up for the volunteer training on Sept. 8, contact Stennett at 291-3650.